For centuries, studying Talmud first-hand was virtually impossible for most people, due to multiple barriers. Written mostly in Aramaic, with unpunctuated text, without vowels, in a column in the middle of the page, with its commentaries wrapping around it, accessibility was further complicated by the fact that its foremost commentary by Rashi was printed in an obscure Hebrew typeface read almost exclusively by religious, learned Jews. Add to that the Talmud’s size and cost — 37 full volumes (called “tractates”) that would take up an entire shelf in a library. While digital versions do exist, such as the one published for decades by Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, it lacks English translation and a digital version of an English Talmud translation which is available, costs $600.
For the first time ever, the Talmud is available to anyone in English for free — and it’s online.
This past Tuesday, February 7, 2017, Sefaria released 22 of the 37 tractates (volumes) online, with the remaining to be released in 2017. Sefaria’s format links between the Talmud’s text and the myriad of Jewish sources it references, from the Bible to rabbinic literature. Click on a verse in the Bible and you will see where it’s quoted in the Talmud and be able to read it in full, with explanatory notes in relatively plain language.
Of interest to both the Jewish believers and Gentile Christian students of Scripture is what the Rabbis of old had to say about passages we understand to be Messianic prophecy. Most surprisingly, the very passages that today’s Orthodox rabbis deny as being about Messiah, were understood by the Jewish sages to be about Messiah!
Not only that, the Jewish sages understanding of the suffering Messiah (Messiah ben Yosef) and the reigning Messiah (Messiah ben David) is remarkably similar to what we believe. No wonder Sefaria’s release of the Talmud in English and Hebrew (the two languages spoken by most Jews the world over) is so very controversial.
Available at www.sefaria.org and as a free app for iPhone and Android (that can be used offline, too).